Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Although California is presently the only state with an official Harvey Milk Day, cities all across the country will be holding rallies and events today to honor the first openly gay man to be elected to public office and an icon of the gay-rights movement. Milk, who would have been 81 years-old, gave us his life 32 years ago, knowing that the first of any civil rights movement, who clearly and loudly proclaim their right to equality, most often meets a violent and sudden end. Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He fought to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and built coalitions of gay-rights groups, labor unions and small-business owners. He was 48 when he was killed a year later by a former supervisor, Dan White.

The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary film, won the 1984 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The movie Milk, was released in 2008, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White. Milk received two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating, “He fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction.”

Harvey Milk: The Candlelight Funeral Rites

A Documentary on Harvey Milk: 575 Castro St.

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Before there was the Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

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A Slow Perception of Time: Youth, Growth, Change, Life….

A Slow Perception of Time: Youth, Growth, Change, Life….

Slow is a brilliant 2-min. animated stop-motion short film by Xaver Xylophon, which uses different time layers to express an altered perception of time. The film is dreamy and pensive, but also creatively abstract with an irreverent-but-relevant feel. Sinking typography in the film gives Slow a look that’s très chic!

A Slow Perception of Time: Youth, Growth, Change, Life….

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Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Pure Detroit is a short film by Ivan George with gorgeous cinematography, but also one which confronts the viewer with dramatic images of the effects that rapid economic and social change can have upon urban life. The impact of the film has been described as somewhere between heaven, hell and quiet meditation. While Pure Detroit is a beautiful visual mood piece, it’s also incredibly sad. The film reveals so much about the rapid changes we’re encountering in our world right now, how the old things gets broken much faster than new things are put in their place. Pure Detroit serves as a powerful reminder of what the old things breaking down can be like for so many of us.

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

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Yes We Can: American Stories of Hope

Yes We Can: American Stories of Hope

Qasim Basir is a young filmmaker living in New York City who has been inspired by Barack Obama. In an article on The Huffington Post, Qasim wrote that, “He has inspired me, a usually self-motivated individual, to try to be a better person overall. I sometimes find myself in situations where I have a choice to do my best or just get by. And something in me refers back to something Obama may have said about making this country better. Then I realize that if I can do better in all of my endeavors and we all do the same as a collective nation, this place can actually get better.”

As a filmmaker, Qasim wanted to do something in support of the man that he so admired. By chance, one of his filmmaker friends in Los Angeles, Mike Lynch, was thinking along the same lines. Late one night, Qasim received a call from Lynch in his small Manhattan studio. Lynch said, “Qasim, we need to do something to support Obama.” That call sparked a flame in Qasim that inspired him to stay up all night and draft some ideas for a short film series. He wanted the series of short films to capture the quality that he most admired about Barack Obama.

It was by no means easy for Qasim to achieve his vision. It took everything that he and Lynch had to pull together enough resources to be able to finish the series of films. Along the way, they received free assistance from some usually highly paid professionals and raised most of the financial support for the film series through friends’ donations. Qasim feels that, “That’s why what we did here is so significant. We took a page out of Obama’s book and were successful at it. Almost like a prototype, test, or a living example of how his plan for this country can really work. A grass roots effort, people pulling together with a common purpose, even without all the necessary means, can make something positive and significant happen. I like to say that we accomplished this with nothing but Hope.”

Entitled The Inspiration of Barack: “Yes We Can” Film Series, Qasim refers to them as “Seven American Stories of Hope.” Each of the short films is about different people who, in the face of suffering and hardships in their lives, were inspired by Obama to confront their hardships and take an essential step forward. Each of the titles begins with Yes We Can, which is followed by College, Economy, Family, Housing, Immigration, Vote and War.

A screening of The Inspiration of Barack: “Yes We Can” Film Series, along with a “behind the scenes” video, is scheduled to place at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 12th at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick St., New York City).

Yes We Can: College

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Barack Obama: A Manner of Thinking

The Obama Campaign: In Retrospect

The Obama Campaign: Now Looking Forward

Three days after claiming the nomination, Senator Obama, who makes infrequent visits to the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, offered his gratitude by way of a motivational pep talk. “I want everybody to catch your breath. Do what you do to get your ya-ya’s out – that’s an old ’60s expression – and then understand that coming back we’re going to have to work twice as hard as we’ve been working,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to have to be smarter, we’re going to have to be tougher, our game is going to have to be tighter.”

Before finishing, he included a self-assessment, saying, “I am going to have to be a better candidate.”

From that point forward, the 2008 presidential campaign plainly will be different from what American voters have grown accustomed to. Senator Obama’s status as the first African-American nominee of a major party is only the most easily recognizable difference. However, there are a number of other important distinctions, such as style, scale and the silence of the leading journalistic voice in contemporary political culture. The style contrast is based upon Obama’s clearly more accomplished eloquent presentation of his speeches during the campaign primaries, delivered to huge audiences all across the country.

The scale difference flows from Obama’s record-shattering ability to raise money. If Mr. Obama casts off the constraints of taxpayer financing in the general election, as strategists in both parties expect, he’ll have an unprecedented range of options for communicating with voters by being free of the spending limits that accompany public financing.

The silence is the absence of Tim Russert, who died last week at 58. As the leading political analyst in the American media, he played an arbiter’s role that echoed beyond the viewership of Meet the Press on NBC. This general election will be the first since 1988 without Russert as the moderator of that program.

Senator Obama Reflects on the Loss of Tim Russert

The Initial Focus Upon Broader Visions: Public Statements and Policy Announcements

Like most presidential candidates, Senator Obama has been developing his executive skills on the run, while at the same time being under intense media scrutiny. The evolution of his style in recent months suggests that he is defining new procedures to confront a challenge that he has not faced in his career: managing a large organization.

That skill will become more important should he win the presidency, and his style is getting added attention as the country absorbs the lessons of President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office. Mr. Bush’s critics, including former aides, have portrayed him as too cloistered, too dependent on a small coterie of trusted aides, unable to distinguish between loyalty and competence, and insufficiently willing to adjust course in the face of events that do not unfold the way he expects.

Mr. Obama’s earlier style was marked by an aversion to leaks and public drama, and he had assembled a small group of advisers who exhibited discipline and loyalty in carrying out his priorities. He has always read widely and encouraged alternative views in policy-making discussions, but earlier he liked to keep the process crisp. During the primaries, Obama delegated many decisions, and virtually all tasks, to a core group that oversaw a sprawling, yet centralized operation in his Chicago campaign headquarters, which going into the general election season now is absorbing many political functions of Washington’s Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Obama stays connected to advisers and friends via a BlackBerry, sending frequent but unsigned messages that are to the point. A discussion that cannot be conducted in a sentence or two is likely to be finished by telephone. A night owl, Mr. Obama is known to send e-mail messages well after midnight. In interviews with more than two dozen senior advisers, campaign aides and friends, a portrait of Mr. Obama has emerged as a concerned but not obsessive manager. By now, his associates have learned, there is no need to deluge him with unnecessary details, so long as someone knows them.

On policy issues, Mr. Obama can have a photographic memory of intricate details. Earlier, most high-level gatherings involving Mr. Obama were held either in his kitchen or at an office away from campaign headquarters, and were expected to unfold in an orderly manner. Written agendas and concise briefings were preferred. His style has usually been to not stir up dissent simply for the sake of dissent, but he often employs what some have called a Socratic method of discussion, where aides put ideas forward for him to accept or reject.

Defining Details That Support His Broader Visions

If a presidential campaign is intended to be a test-run for the presidency, during the campaign primaries Obama’s chief priorities had been the words in his speeches, messages in his television advertising and policy pronouncements. On other matters, even if he disagreed, he often allowed himself to be overruled.

But now, Obama has clearly picked up the reins in his campaign, quickly moving to take control in defining some of the more precise details that support his broader visions for America.

Obama Elaborates Specifics Central to His Broad Visions

An Appeal for People to Embrace Personal Courage and Responsibility

Senator Obama made what may have been one of his most influential presentations so far in the post-primary campaign, when he spoke at church on Father’s Day. In an address that was striking for its bluntness and where he chose to give it, Mr. Obama directly addressed one of the most delicate topics confronting Black leaders: how much responsibility absent fathers bear for some of the intractable problems afflicting Black Americans. In his speech, he was strongly critical of the failure of so many African-American men to live up to their responsibilities in raising their children, citing that dramatically growing numbers of them have simply abandoned their families. His words were crucial in once again attempting to recast the image of the Democratic Party.

For too many years, Democrats have been increasingly perceived as controlled by a host of liberal special interest groups, from labor and teachers’ unions to women’s and gay rights groups. But none of those groups have been viewed as more influential, and in many respects, as damaging to the party than African-Americans. Obama’s address strongly confronted African-Americans with the view that their failure to succeed in America begins with the increasingly debilitated core of their families, rather than constantly displacing blame onto racism, using it as a crutch to explain away their failures to make progress in America’s political, educational, cultural and social institutions.

The broader issue is whether social problems exist because of flawed individuals or flawed social systems. Cognizant of the fact that entire universities of Ivy-league sociologists, radical Leftists and many Democrats have opted for the latter, Obama wisely drew our attention to the boot straps. Praising God, he said relatively little else about religion, but more importantly he paid tribute to women, lauding women in general and single mothers in particular. Obama listed some of the many heroic things that single mothers do, and illustrated his praise with reminiscences about his own mother.

Speaking at Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, Obama said that more police on the street and job training programs are essential for a safe and sound society, “But we also need families to raise our children.” Admitting that he has been “an imperfect father,” Barack Obama spoke of the need for African American men to live up to their responsibilities during the Father’s Day sermon. Saying that too many Black fathers are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Obama said these men “have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father, knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now,” said Obama, as his daughters Sasha and Malia sat with his wife, Michelle Obama. “I say this, knowing all of these things, because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers, whether we are Black or White; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.”

Describing his own experience of being abandoned by his father at the age of two, Obama said he was fortunate to have his grandparents aid his mother in his upbringing. “Even though my father left us when I was two years old, and I only knew him from the letters he wrote and the stories that my family told, I was luckier than most. I grew up in Hawaii, and had two wonderful grandparents from Kansas who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, who worked with her to teach us about love and respect and the obligations we have to one another,” he told the audience. “I screwed up more often than I should’ve, but I got plenty of second chances. And even though we didn’t have a lot of money, scholarships gave me the opportunity to go to some of the best schools in the country. A lot of kids don’t get these chances today. There is no margin for error in their lives.”

A Call for Personal Courage and Responsibility

The Evolution of Obama’s Political Thoughts and Positions During the Campaign

Barack Obama’s strong appeal earlier in the presidential campaign was largely based upon his commanding oratorical skills. His speeches enthralled huge audiences all across the nation, speeches that were eloquent, emotionally uplifting and powerfully resonating with particular broad themes: unity, hope and change. Obama’s early appeal quickly was met with criticism from opponents who claimed that what he was offering was “just words” and that instead an effective presidential candidate needed much more than that, it called for a strong background characterized by a lengthy history of political experience at the national level.

Since becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Obama’s campaign stance has moved to one that elaborates many of the more particular issues upon which his broader visions for America rest. Further, as Obama has begun to present his positions on the details of the major issues of the 2008 campaign, some of those positions appear to have an increasingly centrist quality. The latter development, of course, opens him up to a myriad of potential criticisms from members of both the polarized far-left and far-right political groups.

On the other hand, one might view the early phase of Obama’s campaign, during the primaries, as one in which he was engaged in introducing and teaching Americans about his major broad visions for America. Subsequent to becoming the Democratic nominee, Obama’s speeches about the details supporting his visions have revealed much more about his thought processes, and certainly a great deal more than is captured by the naive “centrist” political label. They have revealed a mind that is deliberative, flexible, sensitively responsive to ever-changing contextual issues, and capable of actually recognizing the reality of other people’s perspectives, as well as to consider that their perspectives might be just as good as his own or even better. Perhaps by nature, Obama’s manner of thinking might be described as social-constructivist or, more specifically, dialectical social-constructivism.

Thinking of criticisms that Obama is destined to receive from members of polarized far-right and far-left political groups, I am reminded of a reply that Samuel Beckett offered to a renowned progressive German philosopher who was enduring harsh rebuke from political extremists in 1969. About those fierce attacks, Beckett retorted:

Was ever such rightness joined to such foolishness?”

Barack Obama: On the Meanings of Change

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Photo of the Day: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

This picture of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was taken on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008. He was photographed on his campaign plane after Tuesday’s primary elections, while returning from San Antonio to his home in Chicago. It briefly reveals the emotional toll that has been inflicted upon him, by his determination to maintain a grandly independent and benevolent social stance in the face of calculated, savage and mean-spirited attacks from his political opponent. He has been subjected to a form of dehumanizing torture, which is morally unforgivable.

Feeling Alone in a Crowd

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Obama Supporters’ Amazing, Interactive Video: HOPE.ACT.CHANGE.

There is a new remarkable, interactive music video created by community-based Obama supporters from all over the country.  It’s called HOPE.ACT.CHANGE.  When you view it, roll your mouse over the images.  To view the video, and participate if you wish, please go here.

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